Which is more likely to lead to regrettable sex, alcohol or pot? That’s what researchers at New York University wanted to know, so they interviewed 24 adults (12 males and 12 females) who recently used marijuana before sex. An NYU news release reports that the researchers found that, compared to marijuana, alcohol was more commonly associated with social outgoingness and use often facilitated connections with potential sexual partners; however, alcohol was more likely than marijuana to lead to atypical partner choice or post-sex regret. They also found that while some people reported that marijuana made them more selective in choosing a partner, many participants— both male and female—felt that their “standards” for choosing a partner were lowered while under the influence of alcohol. Wait, there’s more: While people often described favorable sexual effects of each drug, both alcohol and marijuana were associated with a variety of negative sexual effects including the very negative effect of sexual dysfunction. For example, marijuana use was linked to vaginal dryness and alcohol was commonly described as increasing the likelihood of impotence among males. Both drugs appear to be potentially associated with increased feelings of self-attractiveness, but possibly more so for alcohol, and participants reported feelings of increased sociability and boldness while consuming alcohol.
No, it’s not OK to drink more if you exercise more, but it is a good idea to exercise, particularly if you like a drink or two. Researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine have reason to believe that aerobic exercise may protect the liver against alcohol-related inflammation and injury. A U of Missouri news release has this to say:
The research team used rats bred for high activity, or “runner rats,” to test if increased metabolism protected the liver against fatty deposits and inflammation. One group of rats was exposed to chronic alcohol use for six weeks and compared to a second group that was not exposed to alcohol during the same time period. “As expected, we found that fatty deposits were greater in the livers of the chronic alcohol group,” said Jamal Ibdah, who also serves as director of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the MU School of Medicine. “However, chronic alcohol ingestion did not cause significant inflammation in the liver. Higher physical activity levels seemed to protect against the metabolic dysfunction that eventually leads to irreversible liver damage.”
Ibdah’s team also found that chronic alcohol ingestion caused no discernable increase in free fatty acids, triglycerides, insulin or glucose in the blood of the group exposed to alcohol as compared to the control group.
“This is significant because chronic alcohol ingestion may reduce insulin effectiveness over time, leading to elevated blood insulin and sugar levels,” Ibdah said. “With chronic use, we would expect to see these levels much higher than the control group, yet surprisingly, they were about the same.”
Yes, that’s right, drinking guidelines, meaning how much alcohol, exactly, is not recommended. Science Daily reports on a recent study published in the journal Addiction, showing that notions of excessive drinking vary wildly (by 250 percent) from country to country. Of 75 countries examined, only 37 even provided low-risk drinking guidelines and a definition of a ‘standard drink’. The lowest idea of a standard drink (found in Iceland and the United Kingdom) is 8 grams of pure ethanol, equal to 8.45 US fluid ounces of 4 percent beer, 2.57 oz of 13 percent wine, or 0.85 oz of 40 percent spirits. The highest idea of a standard drink (found in Austria) is 20 grams. The researchers found that in the most conservative countries, low-risk consumption means drinking no more than 10 grams of pure ethanol per day for women, 20 grams for men. Thirsty? Move to Chile, where you can drink 56 grams per day and still be a low-risk drinker. They also found that in Australia, Grenada, Portugal, and South Africa, low-risk drinking guidelines are the same for women and men. And what about the World Health Organization? Their definition of a standard drink as 10 grams of pure ethanol, with both men and women advised not to exceed 2 standard drinks per day.
It’s definitely good news for some readers: exercise appears to prevent the liver against alcohol-related inflammation and injury. We know that because researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine used rats bred for high activity, or “runner rats,” to test if increased metabolism protected the liver against fatty deposits and inflammation. A U of Missouri news release reports that one group of rats was exposed to chronic alcohol use for six weeks and compared to a second group that was not exposed to alcohol during the same time period. Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that fatty deposits were greater in the livers of the chronic alcohol group, but they also found that chronic alcohol ingestion did not cause significant inflammation in the liver. The suggestion: Higher physical activity levels seemed to protect against the metabolic dysfunction that eventually leads to irreversible liver damage. The researchers also found that chronic alcohol ingestion caused no increase in free fatty acids, triglycerides, insulin or glucose in the blood of the group exposed to alcohol as compared to the control group.
Does smoking marijuana make us want to drink more? Or does smoking marijuana make us drink less? That’s the question that researchers at the University of Washington set out to answer when they sat down to review more than 750 studies on marijuana and alcohol use, focusing on 15 that specifically addressed the links between marijuana policies and drinking. They looked at how decriminalized marijuana, medical marijuana and recreational marijuana impacted alcohol use. What did they find? More research is needed. The problem, according to a University of Washington news release, is that study findings were all over the map, depending on the demographic and the type and frequency of alcohol and marijuana use. One study found that states where marijuana is decriminalized had more emergency room visits related to marijuana and fewer visits linked to alcohol and other drugs. Others found that high school seniors in states where pot was decriminalized tended to drink less, while other research found that college students who used pot also drank more. Other research found that while legalized medical marijuana wasn’t associated with any increases in underage drinking, it was linked with more binge drinking and simultaneous use of pot and alcohol among adults.
Here’s a fact that has been substantiated by more than one study: people who exercise more drink more. Writing in the New York Times, health columnist Gretchen Reynolds tells us that that relationship may be a good thing, or at least not a bad thing. Reynolds cites recent research at Pennsylvania State University, in which researchers surveyed a representative group of 150 adult men and women age 18 to 75 who already were enrolled in an ongoing, long-term health study at the university, about their exercise habits and their drinking habits. What did they find? Unsurprisingly, people drank more on days that they exercised more. And, Reynolds writes, “the data did not show that exercise incited or exacerbated problem drinking. Only very rarely during the study did anyone report drinking heavily, which the researchers defined as downing more than four drinks in succession for a woman and five for a man.” Why, exactly, are exercise and alcohol so fond of each other? There’s another study for that, and Reynolds tells us that its authors “point out that in lab rodents, both exercise and alcohol have been shown to increase activity in parts of the brain related to reward processing. The animals seem, in animal fashion, to get a kick out of both exercise and drinking.” In the words of one researcher, feeling a slight buzz after a workout may, without overt volition, look to extend and intensify that feeling with a beer, a glass of wine or a cocktail.
Is this good news? The New York Times reports that a new study of results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggests that nine out of 10 people who drink too much are not addicts, and can change their behavior with sufficient prompting. It could be good news, except the Times also reports that excessive drinking, the kind practiced by non-alcoholics as well as alcoholics, results in 88,000 deaths a year, from causes that include alcohol poisoning and liver disease, to car accidents and other accidental deaths. Here’s another question: When does drinking become excessive? Quite soon, actually. For men, the Times reports, excessive drinking is achieved with five or more drinks in one sitting or 15 drinks or more during a week. For women, it’s four drinks on one occasion or eight drinks over the course of a week. Yes, quite soon, so soon in fact, that about 29 percent of the population meets the definition for excessive drinking, while 90 percent of those people do not meet the definition of alcoholism. What can those people do about the problem? The government funded report suggests that they should drink less.
Congratulations on your excellent workout. Now you can buy yourself a beer. Or three. That, according to researchers at Northwestern University, is very often the last set of our workouts. Science Daily reports on the exercise to alcohol research, for which 150 people, ages 18 to 89, recorded their physical activity and alcohol use in smartphones at the end of the day for 21 days. They did the routine three different times throughout one year. The researchers knew that previous studies had shown that people who exercise more drink more alcohol, but this study drilled down to finer correlations. Here’s what they found: it’s not simply that people who exercise more drink more, it’s that on days when people are more active they tend to drink more than on days they are less active. Why? “Perhaps people reward themselves for working out by having more to drink or maybe being physically active leads them to encountering more social situations where alcohol is consumed — we don’t know,” says David E. Conroy, lead author of the study.” Yes, more research is needed.
In a study whose results will surprise few and disappoint many, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found that, contrary to some extremely popular earlier studies, drinking alcohol is actually bad for your heart. A Penn news release reports that when the researchers reviewed more than 50 studies that linked drinking habits and cardiovascular health for over 260,000 people, they found that people with a specific gene that leads to lower alcohol consumption over time have, on average, better cardiovascular health. How much better? People who drank 17 percent less alcohol per week have on average a 10 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease, as well as lower blood pressure. Wait, it gets worse: those who drank less also looked better, because they had a lower Body Mass Index.
First, note well the word “moderate,” because immoderate drinking does to your immune system what water in the gas tank does to your car. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (I know, you never heard of it) are convinced that moderate drinking boosts the immune system, at least in monkeys. A university news release reports that researchers trained a group of 12 rhesus macaques, who were vaccinated against small pox, to consume alcohol — a 4 percent ethanol mixture whenever they felt like it. They then separated the animals into two groups — those with access to the 4 percent ethanol and those with access to sugar water. All of the animals had regular access to pure water, and to food. The researchers monitored the animals’ alcohol intake for 14 months, and segregated them into two groups- heavy drinkers, those that had an average blood ethanol concentration greater than 0.08 percent — the legal limit for humans to be able to drive a vehicle; and moderate drinkers, with an average blood ethanol concentration of 0.02 to 0.04 percent. And now the news: Prior to consuming the alcohol, all of the animals showed comparable responses to the vaccination. But after exposure to the alcohol, the two groups of monkeys responded in very different ways to the vaccination. The heavy drinkers showed greatly diminished vaccine responses compared with the control group of monkeys who drank the sugar water. But the moderate-drinking monkeys showed enhanced responses to the vaccine compared to the control group. Moderate drinking bolstered their bodies’ immune systems. Read more from Oregon Health & Science University.